Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Flames Of Paradise Cause Rush On The Charts

When ‘Flames Of Paradise’ hit the charts in 1987, a lot of people who listened to popular music around that time were familiar with the name Jennifer Rush (wasn‘t she the one who did that ‘Power Of Love’ song?) - absolutely everyone who listened to popular music (and those who didn’t) were familiar with Elton John. And whilst most could tell you at least something about the career achievements or personal journey of the man dubbed Reginald Dwight by his parents, I doubt many could do the same for Jennifer Rush. So to redress the balance a bit I’d like to fill in a few of the blanks on the latter - that is in no way to undermine the contribution of Mr. John to the duet ‘Flames Of Paradise’ or his extraordinary place in the realm of pop-rock superstardom - but let’s face it this blog is (with a few exceptions) a place to explore the world of some of the lesser known contributors to the rich tapestry of popular music over time.

Born Heidi Stern in Queens, New York, Jennifer Rush grew up in a family steeped in musical heritage. As a child she spent time living in Germany, and after time spent back in the U.S. to finish highschool, returned to Germany in 1982 with her father to pursue a singing career (according to Wikipedia she released an album in the U.S. in 1979 titled ‘Heidi Stern‘ which didn‘t sell). With a powerful voice, that owed more than a bit to her opera singing father, Rush took European charts (especially Germany) by storm with hits such as ‘Into My Dreams’, ‘Come Give Me Your Hand’ and ‘25 Lovers’. But it would take ‘The Power Of Love’ in 1985 to open the flood gates on the U.K. and Australian markets.

‘The Power Of Love’ was the atypical power ballad, but there was nothing atypical about how it sold. The song surged to #1 in the U.K. during October ‘85 and spent a mammoth five weeks at the head of the hit pack. It was easily the biggest selling single in Britain for the year. The song took an almost identical path to glory in Australia, spending a total of two weeks at #1 late in 1985 (split for a week by Midnight Oil’s ‘Species Deceases’ EP - now there’s a contrast in musical genus). There must have been something about the title too that appealed to people, because just 12 months earlier had seen Frankie Goes To Hollywood reach #1 in the U.K. and #4 in Australia with a song titled ‘The Power Of Love’, and just a few weeks previous to Jennifer Rush, Huey Lewis & The News dropped the ‘The’ but still reached #1 in Australia, #9 in the U.K. and #1 in the U.S. with their own 'Power Of Love' song. So within a year we had three different hit songs by three different artists with the same basic title - can’t think of it happening before or since in popular music. But whilst it reached the top 10 in 16 countries, surprisingly Jennifer Rush couldn’t crack the U.S. market with ‘The Power Of Love’ (#57). Instead the honour of breaking that song into the U.S. top 40 for the first time was achieved by Laura Branigan in 1987 (#26) and in early ‘94 Celine Dion took her version all the way to #1 in the U.S. (seriously what did Celine Dion’s version have that Jennifer Rush’s didn’t?).

A self titled compilation album of sorts (featuring several previous European hits) was put together in support of the single ‘The Power Of Love’ and reached the top 10 in both the U.K. and Australia. Rush consolidated her breakthrough success in the U.K. with the release of the single ‘Ring Of Ice’ in early ‘86 (#14), the song having earlier been a continental European hit. But it would be Rush’s third album ‘Heart Over Mind’ that would yield her first and only top 40 hit in her native U.S. I should mention here that I purchased the title track to that album on 45 and rate it highly (sadly not many others did). ‘Flames Of Paradise’ was the track that brought Jennifer Rush to the attention of American audiences. Sure the profile of Elton John may have helped it get airplay but the song is really strong on its own merit and deserved to be a hit. (US#36,OZ#31,UK#59, top 20 across Europe). But ‘Flames Of Paradise’ is where Rush’s stint in the American spotlight started and ended. She had one more major hit in the U.K. in 1989 with ‘Till I Loved You’ (#24), another duet, this time with legendary tenor Placido Domingo.

Despite not cracking the big time in the U.S. Jennifer Rush continued to churn out the hit singles and albums across Europe and in the process collaborated with several other big names in the business including songwriters Desmond Child and Diane Warren, Queen’s Brian May, and pop crooner Michael Bolton (momentary cringe on typing that name) on the duet ‘Same Heart’. Her latest release was a 2007 box set titled ‘Stronghold’.

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